If Australia is running a marathon in how it tackles coronavirus, New Zealand has opted for something closer to a sprint.

Last month, New Zealand ditched plans to mitigate or suppress the spread of COVID-19 and instead committed to totally eliminate the transmission of the disease within its borders.

Three weeks into its strict lockdown, its ‘go hard, go early’ approach appears to be working: COVID-19 cases have steadily declined despite an increase in testing, and the country may start to roll back its restrictions as early as late April.

While Australia is also seeing a steady decline in the number of new cases, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said: “This is not a sprint. This is a marathon.”

On Tuesday, Dr Kelly said Australia was “in a much better place than [he] thought we would be at this point”, but warned social distancing measures were likely to be in place in Australia until September, at least in some form.

“There may be some opportunity to roll back some of the restrictions, but at the moment, we have to stay at course and the six months is an indicative time which will get us through winter, through the usual flu season, and then maybe a time to reassess.”

New Zealand is now “the envy of the world”, according to the Grattan Institute, which said the country had a “realistic chance” of eliminating COVID-19 within the next couple of months.

But in Australia, with a population five times the size, is elimination a feasible goal? And if so, at what social and economic cost?